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Two Killed in Patriot Coal Mine Known for Safety Neglect

Accident comes a year after Patriot Coal tried to dump benefits for retired workers

A coal mine near Charleston, West Virginia (Photo: Dennis Dimick/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)

Two West Virginia coal miners were reportedly killed Monday evening following an accident at a mine with a history of safety violations owned by Patriot Coal—a company that has long fought worker protections.

According to reports, Eric D. Legg, 48, and Gary P. Hensley, 46, were killed at Brody Mine No. 1 in Boone County, shortly before 9 PM after a "coal outburst"—or sudden and violent ejection of coal, gas and rock from underground—caused a collapse inside the mine.

In October 2013, federal officials with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) cited the Brody mine for more than 250 “significant and substantial” violations during the 12-month period that ended Aug. 31, including methane hazards, emergency preparedness/escapeway hazards, and roof hazards.

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Further, MSHA revealed a pattern of unreported injuries at the mine. An MSHA audit of the mine’s records found that injuries resulted in nearly 1,800 lost-work days at the mine, 367 of which were from eight injuries that the company did not report to MSHA. A separate audit in 2012 found 29 injuries that were not reported.

Last year, the owners of Patriot Coal fought to eradicate the health care benefits of roughly 20,000 retired employees in an effort to "reduce legacy costs." After a protracted legal battle and threats of strike, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)—which represents 1,800 Patriot workers along with more than 20,000 retirees and family members—renegotiated a contract that preserves some of those benefits.

A Patriot Coal processing facility, also located in Boone County, was also behind a recent spill of 100,000 gallons of toxic coal slurry into a local waterway.

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